Like all countries, Canada retains the right to deny permission to ‘criminally inadmissible’ individuals from entering and living in the country. Anybody convicted of a crime—minor or serious—may be criminally inadmissible under Canadian immigration rules.

Even a rash and careless decision to drive under the influence of alcohol can affect your Canadian immigration prospects. If you have a criminal record, then your entry and stay in Canada depend on whether:

  • You qualify for deemed rehabilitation or
  • You are granted individual rehabilitation, or
  • You have received a record suspension in Canadian or its equivalent in your country of residence, or
  • Have been issued a temporary residence permit.

In this context, rehabilitation means that you are unlikely to commit a criminal offense again despite your earlier record and your entry does not pose a security risk in the country.

Do You Qualify For Rehabilitation— Deemed or Individual?

Your eligibility depends on the type of offense and the length of rehabilitation.

Firstly, you can do a self-assessment and apply for deemed rehabilitation at the Canadian port of entry if you fulfill these conditions.

  • Nature and seriousness of your crime.
  • Number of crimes you committed i.e. not more than one.
  • Explanation for committing the crime and why you are unlikely to commit a crime again.
  • The crime you committed is not considered a serious crime in Canada and did not involve any weapon, any serious damage to property, or physical harm to any person.  
  • Your behavior since committing the crime(s).
  • Your opinion on why you think you are rehabilitated
  • Your present personal and financial situation.

The risk with this approach is that your self-assessment may be rejected and you may be denied entry into Canada.

The second option is to fill an application for rehabilitation at the Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate in your country, submit required documents and attend the interview, and determine your eligibility to apply for entry and stay in Canada.

This process can take more than six months, which means you need to plan your immigration timelines accordingly.

What is Individual Rehabilitation?

In case of offences punishable with imprisonment for ten years or more or when you want to enter Canada within five years of completion of sentence, you must apply to the authorities for individual rehabilitation.

Unlike deemed rehabilitation, you don’t have the option of requesting the same at the port of entry. You will have to apply for this along with your visit, study, or work permit application and be eligible to enter Canada only if your request is approved.

Record Suspension

Record suspension, which was earlier known as a pardon, by the Parole Board of Canada results in complete removal of your criminal inadmissibility. For offenses committed outside Canada, you should apply for pardon or record suspension with the appropriate authorities and check whether such a pardon will be considered valid in Canada.  

Temporary Residence Permit

This permit is issued by the immigration officer when you are not eligible for rehabilitation but you have valid reasons to stay in Canada and your need outweighs the safety risks to Canadian society.

As you can see, having a criminal record does not mean you are automatically and permanently disqualified from short-term or permanent immigration to Canada.

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